Sunday, January 31, 2016


1 Unless the Lord builds the house,
    the builders labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
    the guards stand watch in vain.
2 In vain you rise early
    and stay up late,
toiling for food to eat—
    for he grants sleep to those he loves.
3 Children are a heritage from the Lord,
    offspring a reward from him.
4 Like arrows in the hands of a warrior
    are children born in one’s youth.
5 Blessed is the man
    whose quiver is full of them.
They will not be put to shame
    when they contend with their opponents in court.
(Psalm 127 New International Version)

Though last Sunday I wrote about Psalm 22, it’s been a while since I shared a Psalm without adding my arbitrary thoughts or odd-ball interpretation. So I thought I would randomly pick a Psalm which I haven’t shared before, and this is what bounced up. Nope, can’t think of a thing I need to add. Except, of course, a picture.
Clark Tower in Winterset, Iowa, built in 1926 and visited by me and the hubby in 2001

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Happy Belated Birthday to My Son

Oh, Nicholas, don't be crabby. I am sorry that I didn't wish you a happy birthday last week here on my blog. But better late than never. Hard to believe this baby boy is 30 years old!

Here are just some of my favorite pictures of you. 

Have a great week, Kiddo. And hope to see you soon. Love, Mom

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Vote for Your Favorite Photo

Tonight I was working on a powerpoint presentation and ended up looking up some old pictures from Kenya. I found a few of my favorites from when my daughter Val was there for six months back in 2010. Looking at them, I realize that the three times I have been to Africa, for two weeks each time - well, that is not enough. Man, how I wish I could stay there for a couple months at a time.
 "Two Friends out for a Walk"
I don't even know where Val took this picture at, but it just cracks me up, two animals who were told they couldn't be friends, yet here they are out for a walk. 
 "I am Spiderman"
Most of the kids clothes are donated, but who donates a spiderman costume to a needy child? 
Sunset at Saikeri, no words needed.
 "Beach Scene"
This is at Diani Beach, off the coast of the Indian Ocean. 
"Momma's Pick" 
Momma loves the bird, the dog, my baby-girl full of hope and expectation. I love it. 

There is still time to donate towards our next trip, taking place the first two weeks in April. Go to our GoFundMe link here, or our website  . 
Or mail your check to PO Box 726, Wausau, WI  54402

Sunday, January 24, 2016


 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
    Why are you so far from saving me,
    so far from my cries of anguish?
 My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
    by night, but I find no rest. Psalm 22:1-2 (NIV)

Several of my extended-family members are suffering from debilitating diseases. I don’t feel it is my place to share any details, but these ailments are causing great physical distress. Not only that, but the emotional and mental anguish on both the patient and their immediate families are taking a toll. These people are all believers and have all been praying to God for relief – any kind of relief – but they are nearing the point of questioning their faith.

They ask each other, “Why doesn’t God answer our prayers?” No one ever wants to hear the answer, “God always answers our prayers, but the answer isn’t always the one we want.” So if that’s the case, why pray at all? And if we ask that question, the next one would be, why then do we believe in God at all?

That’s a slippery slope. We believe because we do. We just do. And sometimes it doesn’t make sense and we just don’t get it. We crumble to the ground, crying in grief, falling into despair. Then we realize – hopefully, prayerfully – that there is no place else to turn. We pray to God for help, for relief, for peace. For peace. Because there is nothing else to do when life has pulled us so far down.

It reminds me of the story of the man looking back over his life and there were two sets of footprints in the sand when life was good. And God told the man, that’s when I was walking by your side. But when life was not good, there was only one set of footprints. And God said, that was when I carried you. I recently read an addendum to that. There was also a place in the sand that was all messed up, with no footprints. And God said, that’s when I dragged you, coz you were fighting against me, but I wouldn’t let you go.

For He has not despised or scorned
    the suffering of the afflicted one;
He has not hidden His face from him
    but has listened to his cry for help. Psalm 22:24 (NIV)

Friday, January 22, 2016

Feathered Friend Friday

 Whenever you travel with someone, you always find out something new about them. When I was in Kenya last October with my friend Denise, I learned that she fancies herself as a birder – trying to seek out and identify as many birds as she can when she travels some place. Which of course meant that I would succumb to this whim while on safari with her.

 The easiest bird to identify would have to be the ostrich. Obviously he is the largest bird, but also the most well-known. Perhaps less well-known is that, just as with many other species of birds, the colors of the male stand out more than those of the female. Even though he is black, he is still more noticeable than the female.
 Next well-known is probably the stork. Not that this is the picture of the stork we usually have, thinking instead of the Vlasic pickle stork, or the bird who delivers babies. Or maybe he does. 

The rest of the birds I took pictures of were of species I was clueless about. Until I did a Google search of “birds of Kenya”. This beauty was the first to come up. He is the lilac-breasted roller. The reason he pops up first in my search is because he is the national bird of Kenya. Who knew?

The lilac-breasted roller is found over a large range and has a stable population, thus he is easy to spot. And obviously easy to identify. His picture on the internet looks exactly like this one.

This little guy is the green bee-eater bird. They eat bees, apparently, and unlike the ostrich or many other species, the female is just as pretty as the male.

On the other end of the colorful scale is the fork-tailed drongo. He’s still pretty, though, don’t you think? Kind of like how every woman needs a plain black dress. Always elegant.
 Without even looking up this bird, I would call it a partridge. I thought it might be a stone partridge, but his feathers aren’t quite right or the way he holds his tail. Further research, and I think he might instead be the red-necked spur-fowl. See that small spot of red under his chin? But what do I know?

And last but not least, another guess. I think this is a pair of Egyptian geese. Though Egyptian geese originated in Egypt (hence the name), they are found throughout all of Kenya except for the far north and west. I can’t say for certain that this is what these guys, but they do look like it.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Especially Denise’s. 

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Our Team

The plane tickets have been purchased and our four volunteers are excited to head to Africa in the Spring. Let me introduce you to our team which will implement the first chicken project of Tumaini Volunteers.

Our team leader is our founder and president, Valerie Kelch. This will be Val's fourth trip to Kenya. Since 2006, she has spent a total of nearly ten months in Kenya and has traveled throughout the country volunteering in schools, orphanages and medical clinics.

Denise first went to Kenya last October and the country made such an impression on her that she couldn't wait to return. She works as a certified medical assistant, but has traveled all over the world.

Nick has never been to Kenya before but worked in Ghana, Africa, on two trips with Engineers Without Borders while he was in college. He currently works as an electrical engineer.

Matt has also never been to Kenya, but a trip to Africa has always been on his bucket list, though he has also traveled extensively. He has a degree in film production and will be joining the team to make a short documentary of the work that Tumaini is doing in East Africa.

I think this is a well-rounded team and that each of the members brings to the table their own unique interests and skills. Help me in wishing them the greatest success as we launch our first official project in Kenya, providing the people living there with sustainability.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Twelve-Year-Old Jesus

Though we are well into January, I wish that Christmas was still on people's minds. Maybe if we can't think of baby Jesus anymore, we could at least think about what He was like as a twelve-year-old.

When it was over and they left for home, the child Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but his parents didn’t know it. Thinking he was somewhere in the company of pilgrims, they journeyed for a whole day and then began looking for him among relatives and neighbors. When they didn’t find him, they went back to Jerusalem looking for him. (Luke 2:43-45)
Can you imagine how Mary and Joseph must have felt when they realized their Son wasn’t with them? It wasn’t only their Son whom they had lost, but the Son of God. Did they panic, fearing the wrath of God, or did they understand that God was looking out for His Son?
They had already journeyed out of Jerusalem for a day. Now they had to turn around and go back to look for Jesus. Surely, they turned this problem over to God, asking for His guidance and provision.
Have you ever lost a child or someone you were with while in a store? You looked up and down every aisle, worried that something had happened to them. You may have gotten to the point of contacting store security. Hopefully, about that time you found your child hiding under a clothing rack, or your friend coming out of the restroom.
What thoughts went through your mind while they were missing? Did you pray that God would keep them safe and return them to you? Did you praise God when they were found?

Friday, January 15, 2016

Flashback Friday and Fate

Last night, as I was about to sit down at my computer to write, I noticed a mouse (not the rodent, the computer kind) in the box of old notebooks and such under my desk. I picked up the mouse, wondering how it got there. In amongst the notebooks and such under the mouse was a box labeled “old pictures”. I knew what was in there – old pictures, duh. But I still pulled the box out and took a look. A few old pictures, a few medium old ones and some from just a few years ago, a stack of maybe 15 or 20. In amongst the pictures was a letter to my mother from a cousin of mine written in 2006. The cousin has since died and I hadn’t seen him since I was a kid. At the end of the two page letter was a simple family tree of his kids and grandkids. I just went, “huh, when did my mom give me this and how had I missed it?”

I immediately went on-line and started stalking.

I know my mom’s family pretty much inside and out, sometimes too much information. But my dad’s side of the family has always been vague. His one brother and wife lived in town so we saw them fairly often. Another brother and wife lived an hour away so we visited a few times a year. Dad’s sister? She lived all over the place so sometimes, when she lived near, we would see her a lot, then she would move back to Chicago, or somewhere, and she’d fall off the map. And once that generation passed away none of the cousins stayed connected.

I always felt bad for my aunt Clara. She lost a son in Vietnam and a daughter to cancer. She was married twice, and I’m still working on what happened to her husbands. This is the only picture I have her, with her daughter Frances and husband Tony and her niece Jean and husband Walt. (Jean's daughter was my best friend in grade school, by the way.)
 My other cherished picture would be the only one I have of my dad with his brothers Fritz and Frank. Don’t they look like they should be part of the 1960s Rat Pack? (Even though the picture was taken in the early 1980s?)

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly - Tumaini Tuesday

So that I can end on the positive, let me start with the Ugly.

Kibera Slum in Nairobi. Very little good to say about that, mostly just lots of Ugly.

I guess that these fall under Bad because I believe that there is hope that these bad situations can change.

Such as a lack of water at Saikeri.

Or lack of quality housing at the SIDP camp at Maai Mahiu.

Or lack of school supplies at Southern Cross Academy at the SIDP.

But even in Kenya, there are stories of Good, successful programs which still need support but which are making a difference.

The Talia Women’s Shelter, rescuing girls from horrific situations.

Compassion International, raising children around the world from poverty, but in my little corner of the world, giving this beautiful child hope for a better future.

If you are in northern Wisconsin and want to hear more stories and see more pictures, I will be giving a presentation titled “A Trip to Kenya: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” on Sunday, January 31, starting at 10:15 am at St Paul Lutheran Church downtown Tomahawk. Post a message if you have any questions or want me to give a presentation for your own group sometime. 

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Visit from the Magi

Earlier this week, on January 6, we observed Epiphany. This holy day commemorates several events in the early life of Jesus, but one of the most common is the visit by the Wise Men, who by the way did not show up at the stable on the first Christmas Eve. They arrived to visit the Christ Child anywhere from several weeks to several years later. Also, no one knows how many there were, the number three is the traditional number based on the gifts they brought.

They entered the house and saw the child in the arms of Mary, his mother. Overcome, they kneeled and worshiped him. Then they opened their luggage and presented gifts: gold, frankincense, myrrh. (Matthew 2:11, The Message)

Was there any significance to the three gifts that the wise men brought? The gold is easy to understand. Gold stood for royalty. Kings throughout history have lavished themselves in gold, covering their palaces with it, gaining power by possessing it. Jesus came to earth as The King. A gift of gold would certainly have been appropriate.
Frankincense is a tree resin. Burned as incense or used as a perfume, it was known to be quite fragrant. In the Old Testament it was used in offerings, and was also rather expensive. These were all good reasons to give it as a gift to the infant Jesus.
Myrrh also had several uses in the Old Testament. It was used as a fragrance, in the purification of women, and as part of a holy oil. It was used in cosmetics of the time, and as a medicine, thought to contain a numbing agent. Perhaps the most interesting use was in embalming. Did the magi foresee Jesus’ entire life, giving appropriate gifts from His birth to His death?
When we present gifts to the parents of a newborn, we give them practical items, such as clothing, blankets, and even diapers. Would you ever give new parents gifts such as Mary and Joseph received on behalf of their son? Think of something meaningful, but not necessarily useful, that you would like to receive on the occasion of the birth of your firstborn child. Perhaps a treasured locket from a grandmother, or a silver coin from the country of your ancestors. Some gifts have more sentimental value than monetary value. Those are the gifts which last. Isn’t Jesus one of those gifts to us?

(From “The Early Life ofJesus in 40 Days”. It's not too late to get a copy and find out what else happened to the Baby Jesus.) 

Friday, January 8, 2016

A productive 2015

In 2014, I came up with a list of "40 things to do in ’14". I did okay accomplishing those goals, so I shared them here last January. Since I wrote a similar list for 2015, I thought it was time to share those accomplishments here once again.

First the stats. Coz I am crazy like that.

Instead of jumping to “50 things in ‘15”, I came up with the odd number of 42 things. Of those 42 goals, I succeeded in 31 one of them, or 74%. That seems pretty good to me. I came close in 3 of them and failed at only 8.

So here it is:

1.       Read the book of 1 Kings 3-10-15
2.       Read the book of 2 Kings 3-28-15
3.       Read the book of 1 Chronicles 12-12-15
4.       Read the book of 2 Chronicles
5.       Read the book of Luke 05-28-15
6.       Read the book of John got to chapter 7
7.       Finish Kisses From Katie 1-21-15
8.       Finish Shantaram 11-30-15
(I read more books than that - these were just my goals, books I really wanted to get through)
9.       Finish writing Early Ministry of Jesus 08-13-15
10.   Edit Tale of an American Woman 02-09-15
11.   Submit 10 pieces of writing submitted 7
12.   Have 3 pieces of writing accepted 12-01-15 YES!
13.   Attend a writers conference 08-16-15
14.   Attend ¾ of the meetings of the writers group (the whole group has kind of dissolved)
15.   Finish writing Business Plan 09-24-15
16.   Do a large scale fundraiser for Tumaini 10-04-15 gofundme  campaign $1650
17.   Sell four items in Etsy shop  
18.   Recruit and retain 3 board members 12-07 recruited one
19.   Take our first volunteer trip 10-18-15
20.   Sew winter scrub top 01-21-15
21.   Sew Snoopy computer cover 02-01-15
22.   Sew top from Ghana fabric 11-20-15
23.   Clean Nick’s old bedroom   01-09-15
24.   Clean under the basement stairs 02-07-15
25.   Plant my garden and flowers 05-24-15
26.   Route new trail in the woods 08-20-15
27.   Go to Texas in June 06-27-15
28.   Go up north for a day 07-27-15
29.   Go away in the fall
30.   Work on Easter Dinner 04-05-15  
31.   Write children’s Christmas program 12-11-15
32.   Do the Christmas program 12-19-15
33.   Move Val into her house 03-27-15
34.   Take Ciaara horseback riding
35.   Take Ciaara on a road trip
36.   Attend Jacob’s wedding 06-27-15
37.   Attend Val’s wedding 08-08-15
38.   Attend Sara’s wedding 09-12-15
39.   Host Thanksgiving dinner 11-25-15
40.   Walk the rest of the streets of town
41.   Run in a 5K
42.   Lose 5 pounds and keep it off 12-30-15

That's it for 2015. Makes me sounds awful ambitious, doesn't it? I think if I could pace myself I could do even better in 2016. I got a start on my list; let's see how it goes in the next 358 days. 

Have a productive year yourself.
At Jacob's wedding
At Val's wedding
At Sara's wedding
With Dino up north 
My top from my Ghana fabric
In Kenya on the roof of the volunteer house

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Wellness Wednesday - Massage Therapy

Haven’t seen one of these in a while – “wellness Wednesday” – so I thought it was time  to throw one in.

Back in November, when I was at a craft show selling my Kenyan crafts, a massage therapist was offering chair massages at a dollar a minute. I scared up five dollars, left my table in my sister’s capable hands and took at a seat in the chair. The woman told me something I already knew, “your shoulders are so tight.”  

I told her where I worked and that I was under a lot of stress. She gave me her card and a brochure and told me I should call for an appointment.

Later that weekend, I gave the information to the hubby and said how nice a massage would be for a Christmas present. I made it even easier on him, telling him that I didn’t work on the 4th or 5th. (hint, hint)

He didn’t wait til Christmas morning. When I got home from work next, there was the appointment time and day. January 5, 1:00 pm. For an hour. A full hour-long massage. What a treat! I couldn’t wait.


The traditional medical community sees many alternative health care practices as quackery. I would have to agree in some cases. Ear candling? Have you heard of that? I don’t have a clue how anyone thinks that is a good idea. Chelation therapy? I don’t think so. Acupuncture? Maybe. I had dry needling done on my hip and even though the practitioner stressed that it is not acupuncture, it sure looked like it to me. Chiropractics? On my back, you bet. The only thing that helps. But you will never convince me it can do anything for ear infections.

And massage? I couldn’t find much controversy there. Sure, just like anything else (including conventional medicine) there are people and circumstances when it should be avoided. But in general, a good massage can only relax those muscles, increase blood flow, and relieve pain.

So I had my massage yesterday. It was a great experience and I was ready to schedule another one. I was also ready to schedule the hubby for his own massage. But like the typical blue-color Wisconsin male, he was like, “no”.
Anyway, so if you need to just relax and pamper yourself, call and make an appointment. 

Sunday, January 3, 2016

"All things are possible"

“Everything is possible for one who believes.” Mark 9:23b (NIV)

If you read my blog post from yesterday, you know that I have a word for the year. Possibility. When I opened my Bible yesterday morning, asking God to grant me my word, this is the story my Bible fell open to.

A man answered, “Teacher, I brought my son to you. He has a spirit from the devil in him. This spirit stops him from talking. The spirit attacks him and throws him on the ground. My son foams at the mouth, grinds his teeth, and becomes very stiff. I asked your followers to force the evil spirit out, but they couldn’t.”
 Jesus answered, “You people don’t believe! How long must I stay with you? How long must I go on being patient with you? Bring the boy to me!”
 So the followers brought him to Jesus. As soon as the evil spirit saw Jesus, it attacked the boy. He fell down and rolled on the ground, foaming from his mouth.
             Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has this been happening?”
The father answered, “Since he was very young. The spirit often throws him into a fire or into water to kill him. If you can do anything for him, please have pity on us and help us.”
             Jesus said to the father, “You said, ‘If you can!’ All things are possible for him who believes.”
            Immediately the father cried out, “I do believe! Help me to believe more!”
            Jesus saw that a crowd was running there to see what was happening. So he spoke to the evil spirit, saying, “You deaf and dumb spirit—I command you to come out of this boy and never enter him again!”
            The evil spirit screamed and caused the boy to fall on the ground again. Then the spirit came out. The boy looked as if he were dead. And many people said, “He is dead!” But Jesus took hold of the boy’s hand and helped him to stand up.
            Jesus went into the house. His followers were alone with him there. They said, “Why couldn’t we force that evil spirit out?”
            Jesus answered, “That kind of spirit can only be forced out by prayer.”
( Mark 9:17-29International Children’s Bible)

Whatever inspiration I have already posted about that word, or will post in the future, this is where it came from. Yep, because God is so ridiculously good to me, this is the word He gave me.

May your year be filled with inspiration from God as well. 
It's even possible to survive this waterfall in your kayak. Though not possible for me. 

Saturday, January 2, 2016


Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26

For the last two years, about this time of year, I have chosen a word to inspire me and keep me focused over the next 365 days or so. Two years ago the word was acceptance, last year anticipation.

There are a few dates on my 2016 calendar - a camping trip, Lifest, my kids returning to Kenya for two and leaving me behind.  I want to finish the final round of edits on my novel set in Africa and start writing my second novel. I hope to write my second memoir about my last two trips to Kenya. I’d like to get my third devotional published. I need to finish walking all of the streets of my hometown and it would be nice if I could run in another 5K.

There are so many more things which I could do in the New Year, things I probably haven’t even thought about. Anything is possible!

And so my word has been chosen for me. My goal for the year – the focus in as many endeavors as I can muster, is to greet each item with an open mind and an open heart, anticipating and accepting that the possibilities for this year are endless.